The Mysterious Tale of Hawaii’s van Gogh

The story of Arman Manookian, one of Hawaii’s foremost modernist painters of the 1920s and ’30s, is full of mystery and sadness.


Like many of the world’s greats, Arman Manookian was taken from the world far too quickly, before he could really make the impact he had the potential for.  Manookian had a rough start as an Armenian born and living in Constantinople.  He was driven out due to the Armenian Genocide and immigrated to the United States.  After joining the navy, he eventually found himself in Hawaii.  Not a bad place to forget about the atrocities you’ve seen and immerse yourself in a love for painting.  And that’s just what Manookian did.  

Hawaii provided the perfect backdrop for his works of art.  His pieces often depicted an idealized view of Hawaii, which, after living through a genocide and serving in the U.S. navy, Hawaii would certainly be ideal.  Manookian’s work has been described as an “escapist fantasy” with obvious Art Deco influences.  He worked as an illustrator for a couple different publications but is ultimately remembered for his colorful depictions of the people and landscapes of Hawaii that gave him the title of “Hawaii’s Van Gogh”

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